Electricity Cut for Roma in Lithuania
07 November 2002
On July 19, 2002, the ERRC received information from Ms Egle Kučinskaite, an activist working on Roma issues in Lithuania that, on July 16, 2002, around five hundred Roma were left without electricity after the Vilnius Electric System cut service to the Kirtimai Romani settlement in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. On the same day, a spokesperson for the Vilnius Electric System informed Ms Kučinskaite that the debt of the lower part of the settlement was 68,864 Lithuania litas (approximately 19,950 euros), while that of the upper part of the settlement was 112,848 Lithuanian litas (approximately 32,680 euros). The debts reportedly date back to 2000 when common electric counters were installed in the Kirtimai settlement. Ms Kučinskaite informed the ERRC that the electrical supply had previously been cut to the settlement in August 2001 due to the inability of the Romani inhabitants to pay the bills. An agreement was reportedly reached whereby Roma from the settlements would pay back the amount owed over a three-year period, however, according to Ms Kučinskaite, Roma from the settlements were unable to keep up the payments.
Based on the figure owed by the lower part of the settlement where there are reportedly approximately twelve Romani households with about three adults per household, each Romani adult owes approximately 2000 Lithuanian litas (approximately 580 euros). According to Ms Kučinskaite, approximately 50 percent of Romani men and 70 percent of Romani women in the Kirtimai settlement are unemployed. Adult persons in Lithuania receive approximately 135 Lithuanian litas (approximately 40 euros) per month in social support. However, Roma in the settlement have reported to Ms Kučinskaite that they either do not receive social support or receive it only irregularly.
According to a study done by the Institute of Labour and Social Research for the Department of National Minorites and Lithuanians Living Abroad in the fall of 2001, only fifty-three percent of households in the Kirtimai settlement in Vilnius indicated that they received social support. Ms Kučinskaite reported to the ERRC that while the study did not specifically differentiate between Romani and non-Romani households, very few non-Roma live in the Kirtimai settlement and non-Roma are usually not heads of households, so would not have participated in the survey. According to the study, the majority of households in the settlement (32 percent) are comprised of 5-6 people, while 12 percent have 1-2 people, 26 percent have 3-4 people, 19 percent have 7-8 people and 4 percent have 9-10 people; 7 percent of households have more than 10 members. Roma in the settlement that engage in unskilled labour reportedly earn a minimum net salary of 370 Lithuanian litas (approximately 107 euros) per month. According to Ms Kučinskaite, the average cost of living per household member in Lithuania at the beginning of 2002 was reportedly 431 Lithuanian litas (approximately 124 euros), while the average monthly income in Lithuania was reportedly 767 net Lithuanian litas (approximately 222 euros). Roma in the Kirtimai settlement therefore have no possibility to acquire the money needed to pay off the electric bills. The Lithuanian Department of National Minorities and Lithuanians Living Abroad was mediating the situation, but according to Ms Kučinskaite, had not proposed any viable options for the Romani inhabitants of the Kirtimai settlement. Rather, the Department was reportedly merely encouraging the President of the local Romani organisation Romani Yag to urge Roma to pay the bills and collect money from them. On October 1, 2002, Ms Kučinskaite reported that the electricity was restored to the upper part of the settlement on July 25, 2002, and to the lower part on July 26, 2002.